Track your progress to financial independence in the FI Laboratory!

FI Laboratory

Today, I’m excited to release the first version of the FI Laboratory!

The FI Laboratory is a web application I’ve been working on that contains useful tools to help you on your journey to financial independence and early retirement.

If you’ve read the classic book, Your Money or Your Life, you’ll recall that the authors suggest tracking your progress to financial independence on a wall chart.

While tracking your progress is a great idea, I can’t imagine anyone in this day and age would want to sit down with a ruler and a pencil every month so I decided to create a nice web application with sexy graphs that you can use instead.

FI Tracker

The FI Tracker part of the application allows you to enter your monthly financial data and it automatically charts out your progress to FI and estimates how long it will take you to reach financial independence.

FI Tracker

Tracking your progress to FI is beneficial for many reasons. Not only will it help ensure that you stay on target, it should also motivate you to save even more money. As you watch your ‘Countdown to FI’ value decrease each month, you’ll likely want to do everything you can to bring that number down even faster.

How to Use

After you sign up and log in, you’ll need to enter some of your monthly data.

To enter your numbers, click the Numbers link on the sidebar and then click the New Record button.

Numbers Link

Each field on the New Record form contains a help icon that you can hover over to view a description of what information you should enter into the field.

Help Icon

Personal Capital

The easiest way to compute your monthly numbers is to sign up for a free Personal Capital account and let their software calculate everything for you (for more information on Personal Capital, check out this post).

Most of the information you need for the FI Laboratory is displayed on initial Personal Capital screen so you can just log in there once a month to get your numbers instead of calculating everything manually (note: the Income value does not contain retirement account contributions so you’ll need to go to the Transactions page and search for ‘Retirement Contributions’ to get these values).

Personal Capital

If you don’t have a Personal Capital account yet, click here* to sign up for a free account.

Graph

Once you’ve entered your data, you’ll be able to view the graph and see how much longer you have until FI.

FI Graph

The light green line shows your monthly expenses, the dark green line shows how much monthly income your assets produce (using the withdrawal rate you set on the Assumptions page), and the dashed red line shows where the dark green line needs to reach to achieve financial independence.

The red FI line is calculated by averaging your previous 12 months of expenses but if you expect your post-FI expenses to be different than your current expenses, you can set the Future Expenses value on the Assumptions page and the graph will use that number instead.

Future Expenses

Additional Instructions

Hopefully the application is easy to use but for more information on how to use the FI Tracker, you can visit the Help page by clicking the Help link on the sidebar.

Help Page

FI Calculators

In addition to the FI Tracker, the application also contains some calculators that you may find useful as you plan your path to FI.

Time to FI Calculator

The first calculator allows you to quickly compute how many years it will take you to reach FI based on your current net worth, monthly savings rate, and monthly expenses.

Time to FI Calculator

Savings Rate FI Calculator

The second calculator allows you to see how long it would take to achieve financial independence based on your savings rate (this calculator was inspired by Mr. Money Mustache’s post on The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement).

Savings Rate FI Calculator

Future Development

I plan to add additional calculators to the FI Laboratory so if you have any ideas for ones that you think would be particularly useful, please let me know (thanks to my buddy Johnny Moneyseed for providing the motivation to create the ones currently in the FI Lab)!

I also have many more features planned for the FI Tracker but I figured I’d release the initial version now so that you can begin tracking your progress alongside the new Guinea Pig experiment.

Beta Testers

Finally, I want to thank my beta testers (i.e. those on my email list who have been using the application for the last couple of weeks) for all of your great suggestions. The application is much better because of your feedback so thank you very much for your excellent ideas!

I hope all of you enjoy the FI Laboratory and please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any requests for additional features or suggestions for how to improve the application!

* If you sign up for a free Personal Capital account using the links provided in the post, this site may earn a commission. Thank you for your support!


Image: ncimedia

62 comments for “FI Laboratory

  1. March 6, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    That’s a great tool! Thank you for putting it out there for others to use.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      My pleasure! Glad you like it :)

  2. Rob
    March 6, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Nice! I’ve been playing with it for awhile now, and no I haven’t gone blind.
    Enjoying it. It says I have 13 years 1 month to FI. Which is about what I’d figured. Now in my defense I have 13 kids, 12 still at home. 4 in college and the rest age 16 down to age 2. We do manage to save 30% of our single income.
    I also didn’t include my mortgage-free home that is worth at least $400k in my net worth. Someday we will probably downsize and get a chunk of $$$ out of it but who knows for sure.
    The graphs are sexy, not Kate Upton sexy, but nice enough.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 6, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      You have 13 kids!?! It’s amazing you’ll be able to retire at all :)

      I’d love to hear about how you manage to save 30% of a single income with such a big family sometime. Very impressive!

      Haha, agreed they are not Kate Upton sexy but as far as graphs go, they are pretty hot!

  3. FloridaStache
    March 6, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    I originally posted this on your last post and then you did a whole post about the software! Re-posting here for the potential benefit of readers…

    Checking out the software and I love it. One question though, in the “numbers” section you have us put in our monthly *savings* yet in the help section example from Personal Capital you recommend getting our monthly *income* to put in this section. Which is it? Do we enter the amount we save each month (investment contributions, regular savings) or the amount we earn through income each month? I’m guessing it is about the savings, not the income, since the savings level is what will generate the investment income that we will need to reach the “crossover” point but I wanted to make sure I’m doing this right.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 6, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      Hey FloridaStache, I was just about to answer your question on that other post but I’ll answer it here first.

      You are right that it’s the savings that you should enter so you’ll have to subtract the “Spending” value from the “Income” value in Personal Capital to get the number to input into the FI Lab.

      Thanks for reposting the question here and let me know if there’s anything else I can help clear up!

      • FloridaStache
        March 6, 2014 at 5:42 pm

        Ok that makes sense, but I think this is leaving out some important pieces of the equation. If I just look at my net income and expense in Mint (which I happen to use vs. Personal Capital), it doesn’t include my 401(k) contributions as income, nor, I suspect would it include any other pre-tax savings/invesments like an HSA. The reason? These are scraped right off the top before my take-home pay, so it doesn’t appear as “income” in the software. So while these are part of the FI equation in a major way, calculating your savings, etc. using the method you describe would probably lead many to under-estimate their savings rates.

        What I did instead was go back and add up all of the actual investment/saving that I did in the first 2 months of 2014:

        1. My 401(k) contributions and company match.
        2. My Roth and my wife’s IRA contributions.
        3. Our monthly contributions to our 2 kids’ 529 plans.
        4. The monthly amount that we are setting aside in a “high interest” (LOL) savings account for a potential home purchase in 2015.

        I put the total of all of this investing/savings in the “savings” field in the software. I put the actual expenses (as tallied by Mint) in the “expenses” portion. The results look pretty reasonable to me.

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 7, 2014 at 11:36 am

          You’re right, FloridaStache. I still do everything the hard way (i.e. manually with a custom spreadsheet) so I didn’t notice.

          I’ve updated the post to let people know they’ll have to add the retirement contributions to the Personal Capital ‘Income’ value. Luckily, it’s easy to find these numbers by searching for ‘Retirement Contributions’ over the last 30 days so the extra step shouldn’t add too much time.

          Thanks a lot for pointing that out!

  4. March 6, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    What a beautiful tracker – I’ve been using Excel for years to do my own version of the ‘crossover point’, but it was for tracking rather than predicting. I really like the predictive aspect of your calculator, since most of my previous calculations of time to FI have been based on predictions of how much I could save rather than data. You’ve also done a great job of keeping it visually appealing and customizable – thank you for making this available!

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 6, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      Glad you like it, McSaveyPants (awesome name and logo, by the way)!

    • March 8, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      Agreed, it’s very sexy! I’ve been using a Google Spreadsheet – with graphs – to track my YMOYL “crossover point”. This looks like a great supportive tool for those who prefer a less manual process. Great stuff!

      • The Mad Fientist
        March 9, 2014 at 10:34 am

        Glad you like it! Thanks for stopping by

  5. arebelspy
    March 6, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Whoops, didn’t realize it wasn’t open to the public, or I wouldn’t have posted the thread on MMM’s forums about it. :)

    Either way, nice work, it’s pretty slick.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 7, 2014 at 11:48 am

      No, I was really glad you posted it! I had already notified over a thousand people about it so you just expanded my beta test a little bit :)

  6. arebelspy
    March 6, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    Here’s some other ideas for related calculators (might be nice to credit him if you use some of the ideas): http://mustachecalc.com/

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 7, 2014 at 11:49 am

      Whoa, I haven’t seen that site before. Those are some great calculators!

    • Michael
      May 20, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      That link is broken already.

  7. greg
    March 6, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    I feel it’s important to note at least one thing:

    the page on which the password is entered is not encrypted, and none of the other pages are either

    This means that passwords and personal financial information are being sent in cleartext in a way possibly viewable by anybody on the internet unless there is custom Javascript for security (probably not a good idea — I’d recommend using SSL instead).

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 7, 2014 at 11:58 am

      Correct, Greg. I went back and forth on this for a while and I decided it wasn’t worth the extra cost and hassle since I’m not really storing any sensitive information.

      I’m still debating whether to implement some sort of third-party authentication so that people can log in securely through Gmail or Facebook but I personally prefer custom username/passwords for sites that I visit so I’m not sure if people would like to use their Google/Facebook accounts to log into the FI Laboratory or not?

      As I decide what to do with the site, you can piggyback on Heroku’s SSL in the meantime by accessing the site via the following URL: https://protected-wave-5193.herokuapp.com/.

      • Matt
        March 8, 2014 at 7:45 am

        Personally, I’d rather not used a third party site to log in, and as you said, there isn’t any sensitive information stored here. At any rate, the tool looks great, and I’m looking forward to watching my progress!

        • The Mad Fientist
          March 9, 2014 at 10:31 am

          Glad to hear you agree, Matt! Thanks for the feedback.

  8. Andrew
    March 7, 2014 at 8:22 am

    A great tool, thanks!

    I am sure you have been busy with getting an initial release out, but would it be possible to provide the ability to upload a CSV file containing monthly spending/saving/net worth?

    Mint has a ‘Net Income’ and ‘Net Worth’ trend report, that you can export to CSV. Having the ability to import this into the FI tracker would make it easy to add data.

    Thanks again!

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 7, 2014 at 12:01 pm

      Hey Andrew, I’ve added your request to my list of future feature ideas so thanks for the suggestion.

      I’m really busy right now finishing up my master’s thesis (see Free Ivy-League Degree) so I probably won’t be making too many big changes any time soon but I’ll be sure to look into a possible CSV import function next time I dive into the code.

  9. March 7, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    How cool! I’ll be sure to play around in the tool a bit.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      Let me know what you think after you’ve had a chance to play around with it!

  10. Bryan
    March 7, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    I can’t get in!! I’ve been waiting for something like this a long time.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 7, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      Hey Bryan, are you still not able to get in? Many other people have been signing up today so everything should be working.

      If you’re still having problems, send me an email and I can try to figure out what’s going on.

  11. March 11, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    Awesome-ness!

    I love that it tells me months and days! Hey, question; not sure if I understand this correctly.

    The time to FI calc, if I enter 400k net, 4500 mo exp, 3435 mo sav, growth 7% and here is where I get confused:

    If I enter 3% withdraw rate, it shows 12yrs
    If I enter 8% withdraw rate, it shows 8 yrs

    wouldn’t the higher withdraw rate require you to save more, so the duration till retirement to be longer for higher withdraw rates and shorter for small withdraw rates?

    Thanks in advance,

    Steve

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 12, 2014 at 10:01 am

      Hey Steve, I’ve received a few emails about this so I’m glad you posted this comment.

      Lowering your withdrawal rate means you’ll have to build up a bigger balance to pay your expenses so that will increase your time to FI.

      For example, if you plan to withdraw 4% from you portfolio to fund your $54,000 worth of annual expenses, you’d need to save up $1,350,000 ($1,350,000 * 4% = $54,000). If you instead decided to only withdraw 3% from your portfolio to fund those $54,000 worth of annual expenses, you’d have to wait until you had $1,800,000 before you could retire ($1,800,000 * 3% = $54,000).

      Your portfolio will have a greater likelihood of lasting longer with a lower withdrawal rate but it will take you longer to build up enough to retire.

      Make sense?

      • March 13, 2014 at 2:20 pm

        Ah!

        I get it! I made the assumption that lowering my withdraw rate means I lower my income, but my balance stays the same.

        so, 1.3M with a 54k withdraw rate is the 4%
        1.3M with a 3% withdraw rate is a little over 48k/yr

        So, I was making a different assumption where income would reduce along with the withdraw rate.

        Thanks!

        Steve

  12. March 12, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    This is awesome! I’ll definitely be using this to track my progress. Thanks for this!

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Glad you like it!

  13. Chris
    March 15, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Just wanted to say that the FI tracker is great! Right now it says I am 13 years, 8 months from FI. When I did my own back of the napkin math this time last year I thought I was anywhere from 15-17 years from FI, so I feel like i’m making progress. Sometimes that progress can be hard to see when your just staring at a spreadsheet.

    I’m going to love checking this out on a monthly basis to see how much closer i’m getting to FI. Thanks!

  14. Frugal4Life
    March 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    So quick question regarding the net worth. Is it calculating what I should be earning on my entire net worth? I’ve I’ve got 401 and a house included in my net worth, that may or may not be as liquid as I’d like to be able to earn any realized gains.

    So would it be better to include only liquid savings into my net worth, as that would reflect a more accurate “investable” number?

    Or should the dark green line not be seen as whats actually happening, but more of the ideal scenario, where thats what I “should” be earning every month. Its a bit misleading, but it might just be me. I’ve got my actual passive income amount for each month and its no where near where the dark green line should be according to my graph, especially when the market is doing crappy. I think the answer is that its the optimal view thats being shown, not the actual passive income, but just wanted to make sure.

    Thanks

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 17, 2014 at 8:41 am

      Yes, it calculates what you would earn on your entire net worth based on the withdrawal rate you set on the assumptions page.

      I include both my 401(k) and my house equity in my net worth though because I know I could get my 401(k) money if I need it (see this article) and I plan to sell my house prior to FI and will rent for the foreseeable future so that equity will turn into an income-producing asset after FI.

      Your situation is likely different though so you should adjust the net worth value accordingly so that the green line accurately reflects what kind of income you can expect after FI.

  15. March 17, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    What an awesome tool. Tweeting about this now!

    And not sure if addressed elsewhere, but I would love to be able to copy/paste a record.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 18, 2014 at 8:14 am

      Thanks a lot, Jacob!

      I added your request to my list of future feature ideas so I’ll try to add that functionality the next time I update the code.

      Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to hanging out more in New Orleans this fall!

      • March 18, 2014 at 11:39 am

        Thanks! And you as well. I’m possibly trying to get into the house in New Orleans with you and JM and others, we’ll see :)

  16. Dom
    March 20, 2014 at 11:18 am

    I actually have the YMOYL wall chart up in my room but this is much easier! New reader here, just stumbled upon your site last week and I’ve read most the posts and listened to all the podcasts – will you be doing anymore podcasts anytime soon? Thanks!

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 20, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      Hey Dom, I’m actually doing two interviews this Sunday that I’m really excited about so look out for a new podcast episode in early April!

      Glad you found the site and I look forward to hearing from you again soon

      • Dom
        March 21, 2014 at 10:39 am

        Excellent! I really enjoy podcasts because I can listen while doing house work like mowing the lawn, etc. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of the app ‘stitcher’ (I am not a sponsor or affiliate, I just find it VERY useful and thought I’d share!) but it makes listening to podcasts very easy if you don’t have iTunes.
        Keep up the great work, I’ve learned tons in a very short amount of time.

  17. March 24, 2014 at 6:20 am

    This is great – thank you! I need to have a play around with it a bit more, but so far it looks really helpful!

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 24, 2014 at 11:38 am

      Glad you like it, Laura! Let me know what you think after you’ve had a chance to play around with it a bit more.

  18. Derek
    April 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Hi Mad FIentist! Loving the site and the podcasts! Keep the good material coming.
    I’ve recently started using your FI Labratory (and like Dom… I too have a YMOYL wall chart hanging proudly on my wall). I do have a question for you regarding the choice to calculate the investment income based on total net worth rather than solely on actual total investments. The reason I am asking is that I have a paid off home that is worth an additional $175000 to my net worth but does not do much towards %7 averaged annual growth I’m striving for. I’m not sure how including my non-investment assets are helping to paint a clear picture my investment income. Love to get your input on this. Thanks so much!

    • The Mad Fientist
      April 16, 2014 at 7:42 pm

      Hey Derek, maybe I should rename that field to something other than net worth? Maybe “Income-Producing Net Worth”? I actually include my home equity in my net worth because I plan to sell my house prior to FI and will rent after FI so that money will produce FI income but I can understand why you wouldn’t include that in your situation.

      If I were you, I’d just subtract your house value from your net worth in the FI Laboratory so that it calculates things properly and I’ll think about a better name for that field!

      • Derek
        April 17, 2014 at 9:47 am

        Thanks MF! I assumed as much however thought I might be missing something. I have been using only my actual investments for the calculation of my investment income. In March, I had sold $100K in stock to pay off my home… now I have a nice dip in my investment income! :-)
        That is a tricky name to come up with… “Total Investments” maybe??

        • The Mad Fientist
          April 18, 2014 at 8:24 am

          Yeah, maybe Total Investments would be good. I’ll keep thinking about it and will make a change next time I’m in the code. Thanks!

  19. Frugal4Life
    April 16, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    “Investable Net Worth” ?

    • The Mad Fientist
      April 18, 2014 at 8:25 am

      That could work too. Decisions, decisions…

  20. tony
    June 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    i was trying to sign up for the tool today and it seems to be timing out. is there an issue with the server?

    • The Mad Fientist
      June 4, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      Hi Tony,

      It looks like my host was having issues yesterday but everything appears to be okay now after I restarted the app. Thanks a lot for letting me know there was a problem and I hope you enjoy using the application after you sign up (let me know what you think about it, if you get the chance)!

  21. N
    July 8, 2014 at 3:48 am

    Any chance of having the tool support other currencies, like Euro?

    • The Mad Fientist
      July 8, 2014 at 8:12 am

      Not at the moment but you can still use it as is…just pretend the $ are actually € :)

      • Nina
        July 8, 2014 at 5:22 pm

        Hmm, I suppose the formula and calculations are the same regardless of what currency is used yes? I am not the best at math, but I think this is the case, do I get that right?

        Small question now I’ve input my numbers: Let’s say I spend 1.5k in a month. But 500 from that is actually going into my investment account. Do I have 1k expenses then? Or 1.5k? I assume the 500 goes into the savings column. And would net worth include the 500 for that month together with all that was already there? If it helps, I am using YNAB to track everything, and I am looking at the income versus expense and net worth reports.

        • The Mad Fientist
          July 8, 2014 at 6:55 pm

          Exactly. The calculations are the same no matter what the currency is so you can simply just pretend the $ is something else.

          To answer your other question…yes, you’d have 1k expenses, 500 savings, and the net worth would include the 500 for that month plus whatever else you already have invested.

          • Nina
            July 9, 2014 at 1:35 am

            Thanks so much, it is starting to make sense. One more question, the dark green line on my graph is pretty much a straight line. Is that normal or am I doing something wrong? http://imgur.com/kmWf0JT

          • The Mad Fientist
            July 9, 2014 at 8:58 am

            That looks okay to me (check out the Guinea Pig’s line…it looks straight as well).

            As your investments grow, the power of compounding will become more evident so that line will start arching upwards eventually.

  22. Mark
    July 9, 2014 at 8:04 pm

    Personal Capital income includes dividends that are automatically re-invested, including 401k. Should that be included in savings?

    • The Mad Fientist
      July 9, 2014 at 8:45 pm

      Yeah, it makes sense to include reinvested dividends because that’s income you are investing.

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